Picks

Kitchen Tools to Elevate Your Home Cooking

If you’re ready to make the jump from home cook to home chef, it helps to have the tools of the trade.

vegetables in a pan

By Raphael Brion
Wirecutter

If you’re getting confident in your kitchen skills and you’re ready to make the jump from occasional home cook to home chef, it helps to have the tools of the trade. The Wirecutter kitchen team brings decades of collective professional kitchen experience to our evaluations of cooking gear for home kitchens, and these are the pro-level tools we recommend investing in if you’re ready to level up.

Essentials

Fish Spatula

Professional cooks prefer fish spatulas to the rectangular spatulas that come in utensil sets. Fish turners have a longer, leaner blade that offers an ideal shape for turning delicate fillets but also works on everything else.

Versatile and all-purpose

Victorinox Chef's Slotted Fish Turner

Victorinox Chef’s Slotted Fish Turner

This affordably priced lightweight spatula works for a multitude of tasks.

Heavier and more expensive

Williams-Sonoma Flexible Stainless-Steel Slotted Spatula

Williams-Sonoma Flexible Stainless-Steel Slotted Spatula

Usually about $10 more than our top pick, this spatula has an identical blade but a slightly heavier handle.

Read the review: The Best Spatulas

Tongs

A seasoned line cook handles tongs like an extension of their hand. With practice, you can learn to be agile, precise, and confident in your cooking.

A durable classic

Winco UT-9 Coiled Spring Heavyweight Stainless Steel Utility Tong, 9-Inch

Winco UT-9 Coiled Spring Heavyweight Stainless Steel Utility Tong, 9-Inch

Winco’s 9-inch tongs are an industry standard. They’re both affordable and precise, offering a great balance of comfort and dexterity.

Chef’s knife

One great chef’s knife is all you need, and it’s worth investing in something nice if you’re serious about cooking regularly. Spending over $100 gets you a blade that offers more balance, arrives sharper, and stays sharp longer than cheaper options.

Agile and durable

Mac MTH-80

Mac MTH-80

A super-sharp edge, sleek tapered shape, and comfortable handle

A classic German knife

Wüsthof Classic Ikon 4596/20

Wüsthof Classic Ikon 4596/20

This classic German knife is best if you prefer a heftier model for heavy-duty tasks.

Read the review: The Best Chef’s Knife for Most Cooks

Paring knife

With a little practice, a sharp paring knife makes quick work of small tasks like mincing a shallot, peeling apples, or making perfect orange segments. It also replaces the need for single-use utensils like cherry pitters or avocado slicers.

Durable and inexpensive

Victorinox 3¼-Inch Paring Knife

Victorinox 3¼-Inch Paring Knife

The comfortable-to-hold Victorinox 3¼-Inch Paring Knife is a top pick for Cook’s Illustrated and Good Housekeeping.

More luxe

Mac Knife Professional Paring Knife, 3-1/4-Inch

Mac Knife Professional Paring Knife, 3-1/4-Inch

With more weight to it, the Mac Professional is a high-end knife that looks great in any kitchen.

Read the review: The Best Paring Knife

Honing rod

Even the best knives need to be sharpened every six months to a year (either by you or a professional) to maintain their sharpness. But using a honing rod regularly can keep the edge straight and true, increasing its efficacy.

Keep knives sharp

Idahone 12” fine ceramic sharpening rod

Idahone 12” fine ceramic sharpening rod

This smooth ceramic hone keeps virtually any knife sharp and is gentle on the blades, too.

Read the review: The Best Knife Sharpener

Tri-ply skillet

For properly browned meats, ditch the thin skillet that came with your cookware set. Pros use tri-ply pans (aluminum core sandwiched between layers of stainless steel) because they retain and distribute heat better than other kinds of cookware.

Will last a lifetime

All-Clad Stainless 12″ Covered Fry Pan

All-Clad Stainless 12″ Covered Fry Pan

The All-Clad skillet is a proven workhorse with superior heat conduction and durable construction.

A solid performer

Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad 12-Inch Fry Pan

Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad 12-Inch Fry Pan

Although a whole cut-up chicken crowds the pan, we were won over by the Tramontina’s even heat distribution and comfortable handle.

Read the review: The Best Skillet

Dutch oven

An heirloom-quality enameled Dutch oven is a kitchen workhorse that’s as beautiful as it is useful. Whether you’re making sauce, soup, or stew, or braising meats, it can go from stove to table—just don’t forget to use a trivet.

The gold standard

Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 5½-Quart Round French Oven

Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 5½-Quart Round French Oven

The Le Creuset is the absolute best Dutch oven, with a great design and a high-quality enamel finish that’s less likely to chip over time.

Reliable and affordable

Lodge 6-Quart Enameled Dutch Oven

Lodge 6-Quart Enameled Dutch Oven

With big handles and a durable design, this Dutch oven aced every test, rivaling models four times the price.

Read the review: The Best Dutch Oven

Dish towels

A professional kitchen typically has many times the amount of towels of a home kitchen because they’re good for more than drying. Use them for handling hot pans, holding cutting boards in place, plating, and much more.

Cheap towels for dirty jobs

Real Simple Antimicrobial Bar Mop Dish Cloths

Real Simple Antimicrobial Bar Mop Dish Cloths

These affordable towels are a great size for grabbing hot handles, and they’re super absorbent for cleaning up messes.

Big, thirsty, long-lasting

Williams Sonoma All Purpose Pantry Towel

Williams Sonoma All Purpose Pantry Towel

With terry cloth on one side and waffle weave on the other, this towel combines absorbency, utility, and attractiveness.

A stylish upgrade

Crate and Barrel Cuisine Stripe Dish Towel

Crate and Barrel Cuisine Stripe Dish Towel

These flat-weave towels are both beautiful and functional, and an excellent choice if you’re averse to the look of terry cloth.

Useful for food prep

Aunt Martha’s Premium Flour Sack Dish Towels

Aunt Martha’s Premium Flour Sack Dish Towels

Available only in white, these flour-sack towels are large and thin, and they dry faster than terry cloth.

Read the review: The Best Dutch Oven

High-powered blender

Using a commercial-grade blender is the only way to get truly silky sauces and purees that plate beautifully and melt in the mouth. Even midtier models literally can’t cut it. Pro blenders can also handle the thickest mixtures without burning out.

The choice of professionals

Vitamix 5200

Vitamix 5200

This high-performance blender blends more gracefully than any of the others we’ve tested.

More affordable but less durable

Oster Versa Performance Blender

Oster Versa Performance Blender

This Oster Versa model offers the best balance between performance and price that we’ve found.

Stronger motor, shorter warranty

Cleanblend Blender

Cleanblend Blender

A relative newcomer, this blender makes some of the silkiest smoothies, but its speeds aren’t as nuanced as on our top pick.

Read the review: The Best Blender

Food processor

Using a food processor is like having a sous chef who precisely chops, slices, and shreds everything you want without complaint. Having one will let you tackle more complex recipes.

Solid and easy to use

Cuisinart Custom 14-Cup Food Processor

Cuisinart Custom 14-Cup Food Processor

This processor consistently chops, slices, and kneads better than any other food processor we’ve found for under $250.

A mini option

KitchenAid 3.5 Cup Mini Food Processor

KitchenAid 3.5 Cup Mini Food Processor

This 3.5-cup processor is the ideal size for chopping one onion or making small batches of mayo or vinaigrette.

A larger, more powerful option

Breville Sous Chef

Breville Sous Chef

This is the machine to choose if you plan to use yours several times a week or need a tough motor when cooking for large groups.

Read the review: The Best Food Processor

Nice-to-haves

Stand mixer

A good stand mixer can make your baking and cooking life a lot easier, and you’ll be able to tackle recipes from so many baking cookbooks that call for one. And it can do much more if you get the pasta-rolling and meat-grinding attachments.

The classic

KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer

KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer

This 5-quart stand mixer tackles nearly any recipe without knocking around on the counter, and it’s one of the quietest models in the KitchenAid line.

For bigger batches

KitchenAid Pro 600 Series 6-Quart Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer

KitchenAid Pro 600 Series 6-Quart Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer

With a bigger mixing bowl and footprint, this mixer is best left on the countertop, but it is excellent at mixing heavy doughs and batters.

Saucing spoon

You could use any old table spoon for saucing, but a larger, higher-capacity saucing spoon gives you more liquid per scoop and is easier to manipulate.

The most perfect spoon

Gray Kunz Sauce Spoon

Gray Kunz Sauce Spoon

Chefs everywhere love this brushed stainless-steel spoon for its comfortable handle and its big bowl for saucing plates.

Read the review: The Elements of Brunch

Painter’s tape

Pros obsess over expiration dates because their profit margins depend on it, but you should too if you want to save money and reduce waste. Tag leftovers with a name and date with a Sharpie and low-tack tape before you sock them away.

Simple but effective

FrogTape Multi-Surface Painter’s Tape

FrogTape Multi-Surface Painter’s Tape

FrogTape is a far better surface to write on than a freezer bag.

Read the review: 10 Cheap, Unexpected Kitchen Essentials We Rely On

Quarter sheet pan

Having multiple quarter sheet pans lets you smartly cook multiple things at once in your oven, pulling each one out when they’re done. The New York Times’s Melissa Clark calls it “the one item that will change your weeknight cooking.”

No-frills but useful

Nordic Ware Baker's Quarter Sheet

Nordic Ware Baker’s Quarter Sheet

A smaller version of our half sheet pan pick (which we’ve liked for years), these quarter sheet pans are durable workhorses.

Boning knife

Boning knives allow you to trim and carve meat, poultry, and fish like a pro, which can be a rewarding and meaty project. Also, by breaking down the meat yourself, you’ll save money along the way. Don’t let your butcher have all the fun.

Sharp and flexible

Victorinox Flexible Boning Knife with Fibrox Handle

Victorinox Flexible Boning Knife with Fibrox Handle

The ergonomically shaped handle is comfortable to hold and provides a good grip even when wet.

Grater

Box graters make quick work of small tasks like zesting, grating, and shredding. Cheap ones struggle at even the slightest sign of resistance, but the best ones can replace a food processor for many basic tasks—and they’re much easier to clean.

Versatile and sharp

Cuisipro Surface Glide 4-Sided Box Grater

Cuisipro Surface Glide 4-Sided Box Grater

If you have only an old rusty box grater, the Cuisipro is a nice upgrade because of its especially sharp etched teeth.

Read the review: The Best Grater

Immersion circulator

Restaurant chefs love pro-grade sous vide equipment for making large batches of perfectly medium-rare steaks, chicken so tender you don’t even need a knife, and eggs the consistency of custard. We think you will too.

Small and powerful

ChefSteps Joule

ChefSteps Joule

This cooker is smaller and more powerful, and it works with less water, but it lacks physical controls.

An introductory sous vide cooker

Monoprice Strata Home Sous Vide Precision Cooker 800W

Monoprice Strata Home Sous Vide Precision Cooker 800W

This model is not the most elegant option, but it is efficient and inexpensive.

Affordable and flexible

Anova Precision Cooker Nano

Anova Precision Cooker Nano

This immersion circulator is accurate, impressively easy to use, and affordable.

Read the review: The Best Sous Vide Machine and Gear

Things to skip

Single-use tools

A garlic press, an avocado slicer, a strawberry huller—you can replace all of these with a paring knife and some practice.

Read the original piece on Pro Kitchen Tools to Level Up Your Home Cooking.